individual rights and interests on the one hand, and societal necessities and interests on the other.
But has Davis correctly characterized those interests we call human rights? I am convinced that it is not correct to think of a human right as something that can come into conflict with our public interests. To identify a human value as a right is to claim that something of value is so valuable and so precious that society has a stake in it—for example, freedom of speech, which is generally considered to be a human right (30, Article 19).
Rights imply duties.* When we say that freedom of speech is a right, we imply that it is our duty, and the duty of others, to see to it that freedom of expression is generally honored and protected. In claiming that freedom of speech is a right that society should protect, we are not claiming that every utterance ought to be sanctioned regardless of its consequences. Clearly, the right to free speech is not abrogated by considering it a crime to cry "fire" falsely in a crowded theatre (34). The important thing, however, is that the interests in encouraging certain utterances, and in discouraging others, are both public and private. It is of benefit both to individuals and to society to encourage free expression generally, and to discourage certain forms of it under special circumstances.
This is true also of decisions regarding the nature and the number of one's children. In asserting that it is the right of individual couples to make such decisions voluntarily, we are positing both an obligation and an interest of society to see to it that this right is honored. At the same time, it is in the interest both of individuals and of society to curtail the extensive expression of this choice should the consequences of rapid growth rates become too oppressive or threatening. If, therefore, society is to avoid a conflict between two public interests—the interest in maintaining the quality of life against the interest in maintaining the right to decide voluntarily the number of one's children—every effort must be made to provide the information, materials, and conditions that will assist individuals to limit their births voluntarily for their own welfare and for the common good.
For the sake of argument, let us imagine a hypothetical situation in which a particular government has used every conceivable program to bring down its population growth rates, and these programs have failed. As a result, the nation must attain nothing short of zero growth rates very quickly or face consequences that the government and its people feel they must avoid, even at great cost. Under these circumstances, compulsory measures to curb birth rates might be justified as a last resort.
*Sec, for example, books by Carritt (32) and Ewing (33). I would abstractly define a right much in the way Ewing does, to refer to powers or securities that an individual or group can rightly demand of other individuals or groups that they should not normally interfere with them.